Launched in 1989, Populous coined the God game concept and launched on the Amiga. It was pretty revolutionary and made its creators into big names.
The History of Populous the God Game
The game came about from legendary designer Peter Molyneux. This title made him famous in the industry.
He’d already co-founded Bullfrog Productions in Guildford, UK, in 1987.
Populous was arguably the first God game, bringing in the genre that was a hit during the 1990s. This title remains one of the best selling PC games.
Presented in an isometric tabletop perspective, the idea is to engage in 500 levels where there’s a stretch of land, your followers, and the enemy’s followers.
To win, you have to increase your number of followers. This way, you can annihilate your opponents. You do that by using divine powers and all that jazz.
It’s epic shizzles, which you get right away with Populous’ famous intro theme.
Basically, you’re a deity. And you sheperd your worshippers about usuing directions and manipultion tactics.
You shape the landscape, grow your civilization, and do God stuff. Great idea for a video game, eh?
Although it’s fairly primitive now in the genre, as one of the earliest examples of God games it has all the addictive qualities that makes these titles so great.
It’s almost a power tripping thing, in a way. As the player, you have control over your little world and lead your acolytes forward.
All from the comfort of your lofty position. It’s like being a politician! Screw up and you don’t have to face the consequences! Huzzah!
And the reviews in 1989 reflected its brilliance.
It was critically acclaimed and it won various awards in 1990 across some magazines, including Game of the Year and Strategy Game of the Year.
Populous was soon ported over to the PC, SNES, and Mega Drive. And it paved the way for Bullfrog to become one of the leading developers of the 1990s.
The Making of Populous
During production of Populous, Bullfrog experimented with AI to determine what worshippers would do.
The developer got so involved in creating the 500 levels, and then testing the title, it forgot to include an ending. This was hurriedly added after testers finished their duties.
Once Populous was finished, Bullfrog needed to get a publisher. It approached many and eventually convinced EA to give it a whirl.
Bullfrog was eventually acquired by American publisher EA. During this time, Molyneux’s masterpiece Dungeon Keeper launched.
But without Populous, that thing would never have existed.
It may look simplistic now, but it was radical stuff. That’s along with the likes of Prince of Persia (1988), Super Mario Bros. 3 (1988), and Another World (1990). It was a revolutionary time in the industry!
And Populous was a big hit, providing Bullfrog and its founders with a new lease of life.
Populous II: Trials of the Olympian Gods followed in 1991 and after that the developer became more and more ambitious with its projects.